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‘It has been an interesting few weeks in Norway, shearing and wool handling’

Having been away in Norway for three weeks, I can see how much the grass has grown at home because it has barely stopped raining in that time.

Marie Prebble
Marie Prebble

The new legume-rich sward we drilled in August has done its best to get going despite the wet weather as temperatures have been mild.

 

I have a very busy week catching up with sheep work, with mating groups to organise and rams to put out. Unfortunately it seems my lambs that have been away on rented grazing have picked up scab from shared boundaries.

 

At a time when my focus is on biosecurity at shearing time, I am gutted that a mistake in not double fencing has forced me into dipping sheep for the first time.

 

The test results from the vet were inconclusive but I am not waiting around for a retest and working to contain the problem immediately.

 

It certainly refocuses my attention on the project I am studying for my National Sheep Association Samuel Wharry Memorial Award, looking at best practice at shearing time.

 

My plan is to build a permanent shearing stand in the barn at home and continue disinfecting the shearing trailer between flocks when away, and improve biosecurity further.

 

I have had more than 200 responses from sheep farmers and over 100 responses from shearing contractors to my surveys which is brilliant. In December, I shall start collating my findings and writing a report which will hopefully benefit the industry.

 

It has been a really interesting few weeks in Norway, shearing and wool handling in a few slaughterhouses and on farms around the country, learning how differently things are done there.


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All the wool is sorted and graded at the time of shearing by skilled wool handlers and might be sent to a professional wool classer.

 

Different classes of wool are allocated codes according to wool type and characteristics such as fineness, crimp, kemp and colour, and good wool is worth roughly £3-£5 per kilo.

 

Most sheep are housed for six months, generally from October until after lambing, and shorn once in autumn and again in the spring.

 

The sheds are designed for feeding, divided up by feed barriers with slatted flooring and water drinkers in each pen.

 

Farm shearing tends to be labour intensive as sheep are usually turned over and dragged to the shearer from a race, which could be several metres from the shearing machine.

 

The Norwegian White breed is a big sheep and, especially in spring, I can see how hard the job could be.

 

Government subsidy paid to sheep farmers generally covers the cost of shearing, which is justifiably priced higher than in the UK.

 

I am looking forward to learning just as much about shearing and the wool supply chain in Iceland in November, where I will certainly need all my woollen clothing in the snow.

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